Ownership & Saltwater

by Sophie Mackintosh



can mean to brand my skin parched,
cattle-blistered. Is there a kinder way

than territories that move before my eyes,
the waterlog bloating up

in the sun? I plan elaborate borders then change my mind,
scared of permanence. I write dear turbulent lands

please do not shift so tectonic and keep my food down,
trying another treaty. Let’s work together;

my hand will not be forced. It will be only me
that tears the fencing and sets the grass ablaze

for the love of flame, and not the arsonist
who thinks this place is his too.



My phobia of beaches could be traced back
to a newspaper article; the time a pelvic bone
beached up, scoured, looking like driftwood,

though I never actually saw it. My mother tells the story.
You always were morbid. Yes, I always was,
especially when it came to the sea, where I

would search the pools for mermaid’s purses,
dog-eared, the foetus a wishbone inside its caul,
and dry them on the radiator until my room stank

like the back-room of the fish-mongers, where the men worked
their marble slabs. Their audience watched cod stomachs sag open,
mackerel flower out from the spine. Then the sea

became off-limits. The others still harvested the laver
tarring the rocks, or skimmed wet sand for molluscs,
but I sat in the car, avoiding the bones I now knew

to be littering the waves, thorax and knuckle
worn down to shell. At home, the cockle-flesh
came up in the pan like gum, tasting of the dead

and water-marked. I spread boiled seaweed on toast and bit,
while in my mind the figures kept marching
off the cliffs at Stackpole, their arms out

to feel the unloving dark – so many –
and the water was forever throwing
them all, salt-blown, back to land.







Sophie Mackintosh lives in Glasgow, where she works on poetry and her first novel in between making extravagant coffees. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Neon, Notes from the Underground and Specter, amongst others.  


6 thoughts on “Ownership & Saltwater

  1. […] Ownership & Saltwater Sophie Mackintosh […]

  2. […] published in the last year or so–try Spilt Milk, The Other Room and the latest issue of A-Minor, for starters. Those are my favourite pieces. I don’t blog or have a website yet as I feel […]

  3. […] Saltwater – Sophie Mackintosh […]

  4. engkkn says:

    saltwater is gorgeous

  5. […] Sophie Mackintosh – who published her poems in issue #30 of Neon – has also been nominated for a Best Of The Net award for her poem “Saltwater“. […]

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